Thunderbird Rising

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I had the honour of working with the students and staff of Homesteader School last week as we created a huge school mural. Luckily, the school has some unique architectural quirks and Mrs. Armstrong (the Principal) immediately saw the possibilities.

In order to allow every student to add something, we cut all the facets of the mural into pieces and every student got their own ’tile’.

This is somewhat in the spirit of Lewis Lavoie’s very cool mural mosaic paintings but with a twist: the kids could paint any way they wanted. There were guidelines, but really, we just wanted them to have fun and be successful no matter what. Sort of an intentional experiment in utter chaos.

Local artist Nick Johnson (Smokey) helped me install it this afternoon. We’re 99% complete. Nick is the same guy who was lead tech on the Grandin Station mural and I value his conscientious approach to materials, workmanship and installation.

I have to say, the staff at Homesteader made me feel very welcome and it was a delight to work with their classes. The kids, of course, were awesome! :)

The mural itself depicts a rising Thunderbird, offering protection to those who walk the halls of the school. It reminds the students that everyone is different and that we need those differences. Thunderbird spurs us to action and leaves new life in it’s wake. The colours reference the school colours of Homesteader.

During our time together, I was happy to be able to tell oral stories and play music for the students and hopefully ignite their imaginations and joy of learning.

When we finished installing today, the kids gathered round, necks craned as they searched out their contributions to the piece. There was a lot of excitement and conversation! Even some staff and parents got involved. It was awesome.

A little left to go, but it’s been a real treat.

Thanks, Homesteader!

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Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel ‘Lightfinder‘ comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.

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What is THE GREAT CREATORS ACADEMY?
Find out here

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Great Creators Academy

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So…I get a constant stream of requests for teaching the things I’ve learned over time about Creativity.

What it is, where it comes from, how we use it to literally Create the lives we want to live. How we can use it to dream bigger, to perform better, to be changers of our own lives and affect the world in a massive, positive way.

For me, Creativity has meant a transformation of my life every single day. In my relationships, in my art, in my business, in my health, and so on.

So I’m developing a program. Luckily I’ve spent the past couple years working on a book about it, so it’s coming along pretty nicely.

Anyway, I’ll give a link to save a space for it if you’re interested below, but I have a question.

I wanted to call it the Great Creators Academy.

When I was learning my craft on the streets (literally. I used to do street art), I first studied from the people we call the Masters. Michelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael (basically ALL the ninja turtles, lol), and then expanded from there.

But one thing I learned right away was that ANYONE could be a Master…a Great Creator…in some way or another. And with that knowledge, they could design their own destiny.

Big Idea territory, I know, but that’s what it’s all about. We’re bigger than we dare dream.

And it’s time to dream.

My question is, does this appeal to you? What would be your big questions? The whole point would be to serve you in the areas you really need, rather than just guessing about it.

What would it take for you to become a Great Creator? Or…if you’re already there, how can we get you to the next step?

It’s NOT just about being an artist, it’s about being a CREATOR in every aspect of your life. It’s about your entire life becoming a masterpiece.

The world needs leaders, and leaders are those who know how to live in the Moment. And really, being in that Moment is where we are the most Creative after all.

Practical, smart, and full of spirit and joy. That’s my aim with this. Sound like something you want to aim for, too?

I hope so!

Here’s the sign-up link to be on the list for more information as it develops:

Yes! I want to know more!

Once you sign up, I’ll make sure that in a few days I’ll send you something neat. I’m just learning how this web stuff works or I’d have it automatic. As it is, I’ll have to do it personally.

hiy hiy

 

The Stations of Reconciliation (a Conversation)

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Artist Statement
(mural on the east wall of the Grandin LRT Station, Edmonton)

If you believe you are small, you are small.

That was the hope of the federal government and various churches who attempted to eradicate the culture and identity of First Nations children across Canada. Murder, theft, lies and betrayals. Indoctrination, torture, rape and abuse. Such were the tools.

To be fair, there were some well meaning goals and intentions among a few. There were many children who received a gentle education in the ways of the European mindset.

But there were many who did not.

And that’s why I was asked to create a counter-mural to the expansive artwork created 25 years ago by Sylvie Nadeau. The painting seemed to glorify an era of pain, a philosophy of genocide.

Of course, this was not the intent of the artist, nor of those who commissioned the art. It was meant simply as a celebration of history, the honouring of a man. Imagine the shock and embarrassment and sadness at learning the dark, hidden part of our local history. Of learning how something intended to be beautiful was seen as a glorification of inhumanity.

What was I, as an artist, to do?

How could I answer such a complex web of hurt, anger and shame?

Should I reflect back all that darkness, cry out, “See what you have done! See how you have blamed us for your sins?”

I could. I could point out that today’s social ills are not a matter of bootstraps or welfare but a system that was broken and slanted in the first place. But what would that accomplish? How could we talk if we began by shouting?

I chose to go another way, and to my gratitude I was supported in that choice.

I chose to follow a healing path, a path that didn’t see history or humanity as an isolated thing, but as part of a long arc of time, a small part of the web of life. I spoke with Elders, with survivors, with youth and with people from the community. I asked them their opinions, I asked for their stories, their hopes, their dreams. I asked them for their solutions.

I let all that sit with me for a while, let it speak to me. The wisdom of the people was far greater than any small idea I could muster and when the time came the design flowed quickly from grateful fingers.

As you take the stairs down, down, deep under the surface into the cavernous depths of Grandin Station, it’s easy to be reminded of dark, mysterious spaces, that you are delving into history, to a time long past. It’s when your sightline flows past the massive emptiness and concrete supports that you come to the LRT platform where the paintings are unveiled, like some long forgotten secret rediscovered. On the west wall, Sylvie Nadeau’s original mural. On the east, the new addition to this cave-like space. A new mural.

The centre of the mural, the part I knew was so important and essential, was the White Buffalo. The White Buffalo is considered a sacred animal and it represents many things for many people, most of all it represents peace, renewal and hope. It symbolizes the dawn of a new era, of true knowledge, wisdom and education.

Flanking the White Buffalo are two wolves. They represent our close connection to the land, they remind us we are all family and we are all connected. While they walk alone from time to time, they also run together.

The bears surround the wolves and the buffalo. They are the protectors. They are health and healing. They are filled with starlight and power.

The ravens extend from the centre panel, stretching across the wall, casting their strange, broken shadows. They are the Tricksters and they represent uncertainty, of waiting to see what the lesson will be. They are unfathomable teachers, instructing sometimes through humour, sometimes through pain. They are a bridge between worlds, warning of death, but also in many legends are the bringers of light. They wake up the world.

The Thunderbird stretches across the entire mural, rippling with energy and the power of change, of new beginnings. We hear the Thunderbird in the spring and it tells us to prepare, to begin, to move and create. The Thunderbird is a warrior, a defender, and can create or destroy. Just as an electric current can carry a positive or negative charge, the lightning flashing from the Thunderbird’s eyes can annihilate or renew you. It all depends on your own choices.

Inside the Thunderbirds are carried the reminders of the true history of this place. The land on which the City of Edmonton has been built has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. Our history is longer than Canada, than Rome, than Christianity and the Pyramids. And it has continued unbroken to today. Look at your Indigenous brothers and sisters. This is the soil of their inheritance, they are the stewards of this land, and greed attempted to destroy all that. Emptiness almost did. Only now are the Indigenous people renewing the things that were stolen. And just as their ancestors did, they still welcome all good hearted people into the hoop.

There are teachings in this mural far beyond what I’ve detailed here, and I invite you to spend time with it, see what it has to say to you. The impatient and the angry will find very little, but if you can be still and soften, you will gain what you already know but might have forgotten. Not because of my art, but because of the stories that went into it and because of the truth in your own story.

The mural ends in red. Some will see blood, some the anger of a brooding sunset.

I see the Red Road, the path of a good life, the journey we must all take together.

Reconciliation is not for the Indigenous people of this land alone. It’s mainly for every Canadian, and further, for every person in the world, and even greater, for every animal, bird, fish, insect, or microscopic life. For the waters, for the trees, all plants, stones and minerals.

We live in a time of great blindness and unrest. We fail to see that what we do to one, we do to ourselves. When we steal the innocence and joy of a small child, we steal these things from our own children. When we dismiss others with disdain, impatience, frustration and anger, we dismiss our own opportunities for growth.

And when we seek to destroy the soul of a people, we destroy our very own souls.

I was asked to create a counter-mural. I didn’t. I created a counter-part.

It’s a reflection. A reflection of the old mural, a reflection of itself (in the way that it mostly symmetrically mirrors it’s own design). It’s a reflection of our reality, and of all that has gone before. It even literally reflects the mural across the way and is in turn reflected.

It asks for your quiet reflection as well.

Some wanted the mural on the west wall to be torn down, to be whitewashed.

Since when has forgetting our history been a good idea? We need it to remind us, to help teach our children. School groups can come down to see these murals and learn the whole story, they can learn the context, and can come to their own insights, their own conclusions. I personally asked that this original mural remain. I loved it as a child. It was one of the few things in the city that acknowledged that my ancestors walked these hills, loved these waters. My understanding of the images changed as I grew and we all grew.

But without the struggle, the hero has no story.

And we can all be heroes here.

The drums on either end of the mural beat in partnership with the drums across the platform. They speak across what seems a distance, but when hearts beat in unison what distance could there be?

We are not meant to destroy each other, but to help one another to forge a strong future for the Seventh Generation. We should be creating a world that provides for them in responsibility and wisdom, not tearing apart our lands to steal from them.

We have much to learn from each other when we agree to speak quietly instead of shouting. We have much to give each other and give to our children.

We have much healing to do.

And we can do it as long as we walk the path together in respect and in respectful silence so we can finally hear.

The truth, however, is that for all the good intentions, for some there can be no healing. There can only be moving along, carrying the damage, bearing the pain. Some will do it and still make a life for themselves, for others it will be too hard a burden. This is the work of nations and generations. The sooner we understand that, the more effective our efforts will be at this monumental task. For others, the colonization is complete. They are just as voracious, just as destructive, as anyone else who feels no stewardship for the land. These are the truths we must face and accept.

We face very real challenges. Real life hatreds. Real life violence and death. Prejudices and discriminations. The problems didn’t end with the last Residential School closing. Indigenous children are still being taken from their homes in shocking numbers, supports are still being removed. The majority of prison inmates are of Indigenous descent even though the Indigenous in Canada only make up about 5% of the population.

And yet so many people still believe the federal government hype, the empty words that claim they are doing something. To be blunt, what they’re doing is allowing the status quo because the goal is complete eradication and assimilation. Even today.

Things are broken and they won’t be fixed until the average person, you and me, choose to fix it starting now.

And together we really are united in a good purpose. We really are strong.

When you believe you are mighty, you are mighty.

This is Reconciliation.

And we’ve only just begun.

Aaron Paquette
March 2014

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Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel ‘Lightfinder‘ comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.

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The Alchemy of Breathing

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Just as you wouldn’t drink poison, you wouldn’t give your children poison to drink. This seems an obvious statement.

But what about the poisons we don’t eat or drink? The poisons of the heart, the poisons of the mind?

We allow toxic thoughts to spill out from us into the world and we accept that pollution from others. We may shake our heads at an example of abuse or hatred or racism, but we allow it into our lives.

We have built up so much of it that the sickness becomes common-place.

A harsh word, the loss of temper, jealousy, unkindness – we excuse it easily because it’s everywhere. It’s what we’ve come to know from others and so we are okay with those things in ourselves.

But just as surely as microscopic amounts of lead or mercury or arsenic will eventually sicken us and eventually kill us, the harmful, hurtful, negative and small thoughts and actions we take on a regular basis will dull our spirit, threatening to kill our connection with the Great Spirit.

In addition, it warps and ruins our ability to connect compassionately with others.

We begin to feel alone, isolated, under attack. This can be individually or tribally. We feel separate from others in a world of pain and distrust.

It can look so benign.

Gossip over the phone, laughter at other’s misfortunes, vindication when someone who hurt you suffers.

And our children observe and feel it all. They take it in. They take in the slow poison. And then we wonder why they act up, where they learned to hurt others, why they seem so sad or angry.

It’s because they have been presented with a table full of toxic food and not knowing any better they’ve eaten it up, following our examples.

Now, this is not an easy thing to write because I certainly don’t want people to feel bad about themselves. So let me say clearly: you are not a bad person if you aren’t perfect.

You’re not a bad person, period.

You’ve inherited your pain and you live in a society that favours punishment over healing, vengeance over peacemaking, delivering hurt for hurt, keeping the cycle of pain alive and they call it justice.

And for some, feeding you this poison is good business, it’s done intentionally. Keeping you afraid, angry, locked in those cycles of anxiety and worry is big money.

So you were basically born into a toxic landscape.

It’s not your fault.

But you can heal.

It’s not a quick fix. How could it be? But you can start anytime. You can start now.

Begin to notice when you are feeling negative. You will usually notice it comes from one or two things:

1. Self loathing
2. Blaming others

That’s about it.

And both of those things you have the power to respond to.

If it’s self-loathing you feel ugly, inside or out – or both! You burden yourself with all the wrong you’ve done, you live in perpetual anxiety or depression or you feel like you are ‘faking it’ much of the time. It can be mild or severe.

If it’s blaming others you keep a litany of the wrongs done to you. You are on high alert for more wrongs, and every time, you have a deep emotional reaction. You feel like lashing out and sometimes you do. You are trying to stay in control of your life but others keep abusing your trust or betraying you. Again, this can range from mild to severe.

These feelings, this self loathing, this blaming others, can exist on an individual level, a community level, heck, a cultural or national level. And they often do. We all have a little bit of it unless we’re crazy enlightened. (by the way, the vast majority of people you will ever meet who claim enlightenment…well, probably aren’t. If you have to say it, you’re likely not quite there)

Now, we can all have moments of enlightenment. Moments when we are at perfect peace or a wondrous realization washes over us. That’s the healthy you breaking through the smoggy atmosphere of our society.

What we would like to do is expand our thoughts and our spirit out and up above the pollution so we can breathe more fully, see more clearly. Right?

Right.

Now, believe it or not, you’ve already started, just by reading these words, by painting these images in your mind.

Part of being positive, of overcoming negative habits, is first acknowledging the thing that is harming you. We’ve done that. We’ve described it. It’s not a secret or a mystery.

Being positive isn’t being naive or clueless. It’s seeing the whole scope of things (well, as much as we’re able) and choosing. Making a choice. Basically, installing a filter.

Instead of wholeheartedly choking on the ashes of the world, the positive person has taken the simple step of covering their mouth with some cloth, shielding their eyes with safety glasses (usually rose coloured), and put some earplugs in to cut down on the constant barrage of noise.

The positive person has done all that because they see and feel quite clearly and quite keenly the ills of the land. And they have chosen to be a healing force in a world of hurt.

But the question that remains is how do you filter the stuff that’s already inside you? That self loathing, that blaming others stuff?

Acknowledging it. Being aware of it. Basically saying to yourself something along the lines of, “Yup. There it is. I see what’s happening.”

It makes sense. You have to be able to diagnose, to see, the thousand little blades that cut you from inside.

And every time you see one, you’ve basically plucked it out.

Now, instead of tossing it aside where it can hurt someone else, the trick is to transform it. Change it.

The most effective way to do this is to breathe deep and clear and to send a new feeling into the universe. Yup, I said universe. I know, it sounds so new age-y.

But here’s what you can do (and you don’t even need to be dealing with something directly, but sometimes you will have to).

Instead of thinking, “I gotta deal with this! I gotta stop hating myself.” or “I have to deal with this other person. Right Now!”

Just relax.

How?

Again, by breathing.

Imagine all that poison we talked about is darkness, shadow, pollution. As you breathe in through your nose (filter, remember?) you can feel it swirling all around, inside and out. You might want to think it’s gross, but try this, instead. Just say, “I see you.” No judgement, no inferiority, no superiority. Just awareness.

Then when you breathe out, breathe out through your mouth. Not in a quick, impatient way, but slowly, deliberately, in control.

The air that flows out of you is filled with pollution. As it leaves your body, do something amazing.

Picture it all transforming into crystal clear beauty, into light.

As it transforms, let it fly away from you. Appreciate it, but don’t try to keep it. Let it go.

Every intentional breath you take in and release can be a healing, transformative breath for the world.

It will take practice, but you will get the hang of it.

And it doesn’t stop there.

As you breathe in and out, in and out, you are cleansing yourself, your hoop, your place in the web of life.

As your hoop is made light, it grows. It expands around you.

It grows and is made stronger.

Your hoop will be filled with this new healing and as you walk through the world, more and more people will fit in your hoop, will pass through it.

As you continue to breathe and see and acknowledge and allow, your hoop will grow.

You’ll see that the poisons I talked about, while real, are really not that bad once you learn how easy they are to dispel. Or dis spell, as it were. Yup, that’s a groaner.

Shadows look pretty scary but wow do they disappear fast with a little light!

Keep doing this, grow in kindness and forgiveness. Grow in your desire to give healthily.

And your hoop will grow until it embraces the whole world.

And if you’re really humble and cheerful and loving of yourself and others, it will expand beyond that.

But baby steps.

First learn to breathe on purpose, for a purpose.

And the purpose? To be alive. To be excited about being alive. To contribute your energy and actions to making your community a better place. To accept all challenges as part of your journey, your story, your adventure.

You have so much to give, whether you believe right now or not.

But now that I said it, maybe you’ll finally start believing it’s true!

Ready, set, breathe.

Hiy hiy

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Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel ‘Lightfinder‘ comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.

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You’ve never seen #EyeOfTheTiger performed like this!

image

And now for a bit of inspiration.

User MIDIDesaster converted an old midi music file to play on an old dot matrix printer (remember those?) and posted it on Vimeo.

Are you ready for some good old fashioned retro motivation?

Then watch the video and get pumped!

“Eye of the tiger” on dot matrix printer from MIDIDesaster on Vimeo.

}

A little “rocky” in some parts but I like how followed the “creed” of giving it his best…

:D

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#Heartbeats

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The lesson is simple. Let go of the desire for things that you think are valuable and they will fall away, revealing your everlasting, shining spirit.

I wouldn’t tell you what to believe but I would urge you to examine the feeling of lack in your life, the feeling that there is not enough. If you were to spend a day, and another and another in gratitude and humour for what is at hand that sustains you, it would open the door for a fundamental shift in your perception of your wants and needs.

There’s no point in comparing your relative wealth to someone living homeless in the Third World, just as there is no point in comparing your relative poverty to Bill Gates.

Both comparisons will simply feed your ego, for good or ill, and bring you feelings of shame. Comparison is the fastest route I know of to unhappiness.

If you must compare your life, then compare it to the deer who runs freely, the wolf that hunts, the bear that sleeps. Compare the impact of your existence to the marching ant or the spinning spider who reminds us that we are all connected by the great web of life.

Remember that in that web, what you do to one life comes back to your own in some way or another. When you kill the songbird, your song also dies. When you take the life of an animal – without humility, awareness and gratitude – you take the life of the land, and so, eventually, your own life as well.

We see this unfortunate truth playing out in front of our eyes. They killed the buffalo, they now cull the wolf. They rip the resources from the land without thanking the land. They cut the trees and foul the water. They destroy the diversity of the fields for single crops and spray chemicals on it to obliterate the insects who feed on those crops.

And with sorrow we see the rivers clog with soil runoff. We can no longer drink safely from the streams. The lakes are overrun with algae and even the honeybees are dying.

We destroy our ability to live on the land itself, all because we have forgotten to be grateful, to listen to the song of our spirit.

This is why it’s necessary to stop, to be silent, to let go of the desire for material things and immaterial things.

As we treat our own spirit, so too, do we treat the land, and neither can survive the harm caused by neglect, anger, apathy and greed.

The great orator, Chief Canasatego said:

“We know our lands have now become more valuable. The white people think we do not know their value; but we know that the land is everlasting, and the few goods we receive for it are soon worn out and gone.”

There are only so many heartbeats given to every living being. You have already used up many of your own. For those that remain, use them well.

Hiy hiy

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Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel ‘Lightfinder‘ comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.

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This passage is an excerpt from the rough draft of an upcoming non-fiction book, ‘So Many Heartbeats’

(working title)

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First Nations Metis Artist Writer Presenter

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